Rep. Schiff Statement on Syria

Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, released the following statement after briefings by the Administration over the past few days:

"During the past ten days I have been receiving updated intelligence briefings and reports, and the evidence is now compelling that the Assad regime gassed its own people on August 21, killing about 1400 including over 400 children.  This evidence of chemical attack comes from intelligence sources, respected NGOs, widespread and contemporaneous social media reports and video, and soon I hope from the UN inspectors themselves. Like many Americans, after the Intelligence Community's tragically flawed analysis of the Iraqi WMD program, I greet all intelligence analyses of a hostile nation's possession or use of such weapons with a strong degree of skepticism. 

"But at a certain point the evidence from a multitude of sources is so substantial that to ignore it amounts to turning a blind eye. With the most recent clinical evidence from blood, hair or tissue samples of sarin use, we are approaching that point.

"The President has said that Assad must be held accountable for violating the Geneva Protocol and all the international norms against chemical weapons use -- not to mention crimes against humanity. I agree with him. The President has also said that the failure to hold Assad accountable will not only encourage him to use chemical weapons again, but increase the likelihood that other nations will conclude that their development and use of WMD will be tolerated, and I agree with that too.

"I also believe that, as it is an international norm that is being violated, it is vital that the international community hold Assad accountable and that it should not be the United States acting alone. Yesterday afternoon, I expressed my concern to the White House that very few other nations were willing to act in concert with the United States in holding Assad accountable. After the loss of British support, the President faces the challenge of building a sufficiently broad coalition to satisfy the concerns of the American people who do not understand why the United States should take action if Syria's neighbors and the wider international community are unwilling.

"As a member of the body with the constitutional role of declaring war, I believe that the President was right to come to Congress for authorization, even though the delay might have some operational costs.  Given the need to act, I cannot understand why the Speaker would not call us back into session immediately -- and did not do so a week ago, once the dimensions of the atrocity in Syria were apparent.

"The White House has put forward a proposed bill authorizing the use of force that, as drafted, is far too broad and open ended, and could be used to justify everything from a limited cruise missile strike to a no fly zone and the introduction of American ground troops. As drafted, I will not support it. Having introduced a bill in Congress to sunset the existing authorization to use military force in one conflict, I am loathe to support another unless it were very narrowly drawn. In my discussion with the White House, I told them the draft would need to be reined in significantly to have any chance of passage.

"After Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public is weary of war, and I share that weariness. I have opposed arming the rebels in Syria, notwithstanding the Administration's support because I fear those weapons will get in the wrong hands and it will draw us into yet another sectarian civil war. I have also always taken a strong position against the use of chemical weapons and in favor of holding those who commit such war crimes accountable. 

"As I weigh the difficult decision on any proposed authorization to use force, I will be particularly focused on narrowing the breadth of the authorization, as well as the Administration's effectiveness in making the case to the American people and marshaling international support for military action."